Wisdom from Abbot Tryphon on fighting lust and the passions

LUST
Waging War against the Passions of the Flesh

Since the eyes and the ears are the doors of the soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention. Unlike the practice of Gnosticism, which teaches the separation of soul and body, with the physical world being evil and something to be overcome, historic Christianity teaches the unity the body and soul, with the physical world being transformed and made anew in Christ. This means that, while caring about one’s soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention.

The body is given over to temptation, which is rooted in the mind. As Christians we know that we must never play with temptations, for in doing so we have already fallen half-way. Thus, an Orthodox Christian who takes his salvation seriously would never partake in seductive dances, or enter into flirtation as though it were a sport, for he would know this to be a dangerous game.

Temptations gain hold when we entertain dirty thoughts and ideas, sometimes by allowing our eyes and ears to entertain things that can overcome our will, causing us to fall. It is much easier to stop a temptation in the beginning, than to do battle with a seductive idea once it has gained entry. A person who wants to prevent a burglary makes every effort to prevent a burglar from gaining entrance in the first place. Like taking precautions that will prevent a burglary, we must never allow ourselves to entertain temptations, for that would be like inviting a criminal into your home with the intent of trying to talk him out of steal from you.

Many are convinced that sexual needs are so insurmountable in strength, as to make it impossible to resist. This is only the case when we habitually give in to the passions, and avoid using the tools given to us by the Church to bring our body into submission. If we observe the periods of fasting, especially the Wednesday and Friday days of abstinence, eat moderate amounts of food, avoid the overuse of alcohol, and say no to drugs, we will have taken a big step forward in our struggle with lust. Remember, a healthy body contributes to the health of the soul.

Finally, it is good to take to heart the advice of Saint Ephraim of Syria, “Think about the good so as not to think about the bad.” Guard against spending time with people whose jokes and story-telling are occasions for sinful thoughts, and avoid bad company, for “Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).”

With love in Christ,

-Abbot Tryphon
ImageThe Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.

Marvelous in our eyes

The Lord can and does work miracles in the simplest of ways. Most often He does this by reminding us of His presence in our lives when we have become too self-centered, spiritually ‘blind’ or ‘deaf’ amid the bustle of our day-to-day existence to discern or appreciate it. His presence can be felt everywhere, in every moment of the day, in every minute of the hour, if only we open ourselves to it. If only we would allow ourselves to see with our spiritual eyes, with our noetic soul, how much richer and more beautiful our lives would be!

We could then easily discern the presence of God pervading every aspect of our lives. In this ever-present, ever deepening discernment, we would experience constant spiritual, and even physical, renewal, a rejuvenating transformation, for the glory of God’s presence restores all things to their most beautiful state of fullness in Him! By this restoration, our spirits become reanimated and reawakened as they bask in the radiant awareness of God’s majesty, and they feel in close communion with all beings and things created by God.

In every smile you give and receive, the light of God is present, especially in those smiles which you can tell really warm the soul by the creases they form all across one’s face, especially near one’s eyes. In the innocent, pealing laughter of babies and young children, fully animated with an unbridled joy, God is surely present, along with many angels.

In very old churches, testaments of stone and mortar to the enduring memory of the ancients whose piety and love for God drove them to raise these temples in which they glorified and worshiped Him, we see the abiding presence of God, especially in those holy places His providence has saved from almost certain destruction in the wake of wars.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, Chicago, IL, built in 1903, is one of the more ‘ancient’ Orthodox churches in the Americas, but compared to other Orthodox churches in the rest of the world, it is practically a ‘baby’!

In comparison to Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli (“Living Pillar”) in the eastern Georgian city of Mtskheta is truly ancient! The cathedral, which dates to the eleventh century, is the seat of His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, and thus, this stone church is at the spiritual heart of Georgian Orthodoxy. Miraculously, the church has survived numerous fires, raids, and threats of war.

Even in the quiet, simple day-to-day encounters with nature, God is so clearly evident and abundantly present, for there is a sense of the sacred, the holy, the mysterious and the majestic, which pervades all created things. I especially feel this beauty, this divine presence, around water.

Every time you walk out of your home early in the morning, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face or the soft, awakening drops of rain from the heavens, God is there. Every time you await the change in seasons, and you delight in stepping on a crunchy, crisped autumn leaf as I do, or the cool, gentle September breeze replacing the thick, humid summer heat, thank God for this small but monumental blessing. As you delight in these things, remember that He made each of us in His image, and created all that we see that we might recognize and ceaselessly praise the glory of His creation. Remember that the timeless splendor of His endless creation is a reflection of the Lord’s own eternal glory, and this is a mirror of the fullness of glory to which we are called to attain, by participation and cooperation with, by, and through the Holy Spirit, what is His by nature, essence, and from eternity.

If you try amid prayer to find that long sought-after stillness of innermost heart and soul, if you let the Holy Spirit of the Lord move you and take hold of your heart in its deepest quiet, you invite natural contemplation by which you can wonder and marvel in awe at the magnificent expanse and breadth of the Lord’s creation. If you then endeavor to contemplate, just for a few moments, the sheer majesty and transcendent beauty of all created things, all embodied beings, all physical matter in its incredible variety, expanse, diversity, vitality and order, how can your soul not marvel, how can your eyes not fill with tears at the indescribable doings of the Lord? How can you not but rejoice and say,

“This is the doing of the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” -Psalm 118, verse 23

“A Domino factum est istud et est mirabile in oculis nostris.”

“παρα κυριου εγενετο αυτη και εστιν θαυμαστη εν οφθαλμοις ημων.”

Glory to God for all things!

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